My long-delayed career as a NASA astronomer began yesterday.
It came quite out of the blue. Like the spiritual awakenings of 7-11 clerks from Bakersfield named Dylan, whose life calling was forever stuck in traffic by the need to restock aisle five and serve an endless soda-stream of distressed Abercrombie cut-offs. Don’t expect them to give the “distressed” thing much thought. They really need their Arizona Ice Tea. Life is hard because they couldn’t get gas and their Victoria’s Secret loyalty card just got declined. Twice.
Dylan isn’t pretentious enough to phantom up parallel universes. Or anything for that matter. He cleans out the filters for the Big Gulp, cashes the register, and enters compartmental shutdown.
Compartmental shutdown is a mechanical process. The systematic shut-down, if you will, of everything currently processed by the brain as [RFA]. Really Fucking Awful. N.B. not to be confused with, although not entirely removed from [RNA]– in that both can border on the acidic and, if pushed, enter realms of the nucleic.
The textbook will around this point direct you to fig.1; human of indiscriminate gender or race displaying anger on a par with wanting to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Humanity has, as it does most things, exploited this concept. Mostly in the kinds of scum who employ the title of “mindfulness practitioner” or “life coach”. They remain equally mindful in charging people a small fortune for the privilege of being guided through a concept that most six-week-old babies manage– with astounding competence, right on their own. Lying on the floor and staring into space. “Take this moment” appears to rank highly. As does “appreciate the space”. Possible components of the two-day course that constitutes the life coach diploma.
Have you ever noticed how the people claiming to lead the richest lives are always the most emotionally impoverished? There must be a certain buoyancy to being as equally aerated as you are full of shit.
They have to say something as you lie there. I mean, you can’t just lie there. God, no. For fuck’s sake, you’re paying them. For shits and giggles: what if they actually just let you lie in total silence for five minutes; actually “take this moment”, actually “appreciate the space”? Will you think you’re being ripped off? Are you? Of course you are! You’re an absolute joke for lying there in the first place! Those things people use as receptacles for steaming hot beverages? THEY NAMED THEM AFTER YOU.
I hit compartmental shutdown on these fuckers years ago. They don’t even register on my radar. Which clears my diary. For all the other shit I have to shut down. That’s the problem with compartmental shutdown.
Unlike conventional operating systems, which shut down a finite number of files, caches… remnants of whatever genie dust makes the little Apple glow, the parameters of compartmental shutdown are limitless.
For all the shit you successfully eliminate in a day, fresh crap will have replaced it by the time the sun rises.
I think that’s why we eat.
Dylan’s shutdown used to begin at Abercrombie in general. Fuck that. You wanna do this properly? You get efficient. Start at the feet and work your way up. If you’re manning the 7/11 in Bakersfield, that’s a lot of feet. Being female in the US and not having painted toenails, for the record, doesn’t make you some kind of freak– you’re flat-out not human. Then come the legs. The tanned legs.
Nothing wrong with them per se, just the way they’re tanned. A tan, in theory, displays some form of character. Depth. Either you’ve been on vacation. Hopefully, somewhere less generic than the Intercontinental- and no, it doesn’t matter which one. Have you ever been anywhere less “Continental”? Well, perhaps Bakersfield. Or you’re Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. You chain-smoke. Not out of any abject loneliness or compartmental destitution. But because the cigarette is an extension of your hand. If you’re escaping anything, it’s the exhausting stream of men falling in and out of your bed. Life is really complicated because the sheets are never changed and you always smell of sex.
The distressed cut-offs have a tan BECAUSE they lack character. They lack everything. Even proper shoes. They wear flip flops. Pay seventy dollars for denim that’s already ripped and don’t question it. Need ice tea for the heat, but can only advertise their attendance at Arizona State University with a hoodie. They wear bug-eyed shades. Facetime. Have names like Ashlee. Chew gum.
I’ve somewhat grown to admire the ease and dexterity with which Dylan can systematically shut them down. Head to toe, or vice versa. Just like that. He’d probably come up with far simpler and more systematic solutions for how long that just fucking took me to type out.
I discovered compartmental shutdown by accident. Maybe one day, a small plaque will honour me for it: Ok, it wasn’t quite penicillin, but it’s fairly useful so here, have a mention and Rest In Piece(s)- Compartment by Compartment.
I’ve never been to Bakersfield. I romanticise it as the least possibly cultured dead zone of California that still falls within the realms of civilisation. The kind of vapid grid splatter that really pushes real estate when it comes to plugging the place as “unique”.
I wasn’t there, but I might as well have been. Dylan on a bad day.
Enrico was supposed to clock on at nine but it turns out he never made bail, so it’s Dylan; Fort Solo. Except today, the filters in the Big Gulp are jammed, so it’s diluted syrup. With fizz. The cut-offs are not going to be happy. Someone in a scooter knocked over most of the contents of aisle five. The fourth and final college rejection letter awaits at home. Nicely accompanied by some jackass delivery van blocking the drive, a fog light that never switches off, an online girl who never logs on, and to top it off, he’s had roaming switched on. All month.
My entire day had been one jammed Big Gulp. That was before it became a pretty accurate metaphor for my life. I wasn’t wearing cut-offs but I felt ripped off. Entire aisles of my nervous system had been knocked over and no-one knew how to restack them. The Delivery Van Of Life was parked outside with the hazard lights off. Its contents unknown, unmarked, mislabelled and whoever was supposed to man the tracking device had decided to go jump off a cliff or something.
It’s only once you’ve got the major setbacks in life well and truly established, that the really stupid minor ones start to surface. Oh, hi. Yeah. We’re here for the late shift? I believe you ordered:
- a phone charger whose fibres only loosen during international travel
- intermittent Wi-Fi
- shutters that bang in the wind (but only at night)
- a fridge door that closes (only sometimes)
We regret we were unable to deliver a fully faulty one. We understand the mental warranty of that might have furnished you with the comfort of fuck it mode. Regretfully, it is equally our understanding that to deliver the best possible service, all products must comply with The Uncertainty Act, 1999, sub-clause 3.
As such, our only available model is the Disappointment XL4. It really is a gem. Please, see for yourself. The manual outlines it clearly. Could I….? Here. Open. Close. Open. Close. Now open it. See? Doesn’t close! Isn’t it just great? Also, don’t worry, we’ve got everything covered our end. We’ve ensured occurrence is maintained at totally random and for your ease of use, don’t trouble yourself conjuring up any logical reasons for its ineptitude. The contents of the door can be of negative mass– we still guarantee occasional prolapse.
Feel free to browse the returns policy online, although please enable your cookies. Since your milk may spoil, we recommend doing so now. Have a great day!
Then my phone imploded.
Then I imploded.
It was sometime later that evening, giving the fuck up and lying on a deckchair gazing at the stars, that I began compartmental shutdown.
© Rebecca Cukier, 2016